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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 21, 2018 4:30am-5:01am BST

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pope francis has strongly condemned child sex abuse and cover—ups in the catholic church. he apologised for the failure of the church to expose the crimes, saying it had abandoned the abused children. he set out his views in an unprecedented letter addressed to the world's 1.2 billion roman catholics. venezuela's neighbours say they're struggling to cope with growing numbers of migrants fleeing the country's economic crisis. many say they're hungry and don't have access to medical services in venezuela. brazil has promised to keep its borders open. rescue efforts are being stepped up in the indian state of kerala, which has been hit by the worst monsoon floods in a century. a million people are reported to be living in relief camps. more than 400 people have died and thousands more remain marooned. now on bbc news, time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk.
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i'm a stephen sackur. never before in the history of humankind have we had so much information, so many facts at ourfingertips, and yet much of the stuff we think we know is wrong. what on earth is going on? my guest today is bobby duffy, social scientists, opinion pollster, and managing director of the ipsos mori social research institute. how can we, the people, make informed decisions if we're not properly informed 7 bobby duffy, welcome to hardtalk. great to be here. you and your company have spent many years surveying attitudes and opinions of people around the world, i think at least a0 countries, and your conclusion is mind—blowingly depressing. it seemed to have concluded that much of what we think we know is wrong. why is that? so the study is based on over 100,000 interviews we have done over the past ten years asking people
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about social realities. so everything from immigration rates to crime rates, how they are changing, pregnancy rates among teenagers, the proportion of the population that are muslim, and then very mundane facts like how old your population is, how many people are aged 65 plus, and what we find across countries, all sorts of different situations, people have a very wrong view of those realities, in all sorts of different ways. the underlying themes that seem to explain most of it is that a lot of the time our estimates of realities are more about emotions than actually a knowledge of the facts. it is well proven in lots of psychological experiments that we focus on negative information, it takes up more of our brain. so there have been a loss of great experiments that show when you show
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people negative images the brain reacts differently and in a stronger way to those negative images than positive images. so this is a fear factor of sorts. i mean you call it negative factors, but primarily it is fear, i guess, people respond to fear in a way that they don't respond to neutral or positive news or facts. yeah. that is a big part of it. that negative reaction leads to those sorts of fear reactions among people and it takes a more of our mental space. so that we think crime rates are going up because we generalise from that very vivid story that we hear about one particular gruesome crime. and that has always been the case... sorry to interrupt. but are you saying that is something that is hard—wired into our brains, it is a sort of psychological, physical reality and it's not something that's the result of manipulation of, for example, a media that much refers negative
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news to positive news? yeah, well, first thing to say is journalists are humans too. they have that same negative bias within their minds. what i do in the book is separate explanations into what we are told and how we think. and it is both of those things together, both of those interacting. it is what we're told and what we think. before we get deeper into the public policy implications of this mismatch between what are demonstrable facts and the way we perceive reality to be, before we go further into the public policy impacts, letjust us ask a very basic question. you say you know this because you have surveyed people all over the world. i am mindful in the recent past companies such as yours, they live and die by the accuracy of their polling and their surveys have been shown to get things wrong, repeatedly. so how do we know that you are reading publics around
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the world right? on that political polling point there have been lots of reviews saying polls are not that inaccurate on elections and they're no worse than in the past. what we've had or what we did have was a run of very tight elections where you had a 50—50 or with president trump's election you have a popular vote where hillary clinton won... i don't want to spend too long on this. surely it is time for a little bit of humility. i mean, companies such as yours, i believe yours in particular, ipsos, in the us on the eve of donald trump and hillary clinton, i think i gave a 90% chance to hillary winning. sure. the people remember that and then when you come up with these highfalutin analyses of what people around the world are thinking, we wonder whether we can
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take it seriously. you can. we're talking about very different things, very different questions. i'm not talking about razor thin differences between an outcome in particular states in the us, i'm talking about big differences. to give you examples, we think that immigration is twice the level it actually is. it is not a percentage point here or there, it is, taking the uk's example, it is about 13% of the population, our immigrants, whereas the average guess is around 25%. in france, the actual population of muslims, the proportion that make up of the population in france is around 7% or 8% but the guess in france is around 30%. and think it's going to be 40% in the next two or three years. so there's a big difference. is there any evidence that the mismatch between perception and reality, is either increasing or decreasing? i began this particular conversation by suggesting that humankind has access to more information today than ever before. i think that is irrefutably true. but the question is whether access to information is making us better
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informed or not. is there any evidence to suggest the disconnect, the false perception, is narrowing or is as bad as ever? that's a great question. because we cannot estimate that well, going into the distant past. but there is this very useful tradition in us political thinking called political ignorance. so they did ask some basic facts about politics and society, all the way back in the 1940s and 1950s, and that was updated in the 1980s and 1990s, and what they found is that it's almost exactly the same now as it was then, our level of misperception of things like the unemployment rate, or surveillance facts around who's in charge of the senate, those types of questions, where people are just as wrong now as they were then. i think the point is, this is not a supply of information issue, this is about how our brains work. we talk a lot more these days about things like confirmation bias, which is where we look for facts that reinforce our already held views...
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isn't that precisely why many observers of information flows are so worried about the impact of the internet, the digital age, and in particular social media platforms, because it is so easy for us all to create a sort of personal echo chamber where we only tap in to information and news sources which confirm our preconceived ideas? exactly. so the underlying causes within the way we think our constant over time. but the environment has changed so much. this really is our biggest cultural threat right now, is that sense of us either creating our own individual realities by what we choose, or having them pushed at us through algorithms that we don't even see. and that is a massive challenge, the way the splintering
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and fragmenting of what you and i understand as an accepted reality of how the world is is a massive threat. so as you are about to leave your post after two decades at ipsos mori, is this the moment that you, as a respected analyst of this information flow relationship, is this where you say things are so bad that we need to consider new forms of regulation, even forms of censorship to ensure that people are not fed manipulative and false information? there is no one solution to this. this is multifaceted. it's about what we see, what we ‘e told, and what we think. you cannot solve that through regulation. i think there is a greater role for regulation within this space, but it does raise really difficult questions about who then is telling you what the truth is. you can actually start to legislate the truth. it gives people a lot of pause to say that regulation is the only button to push. i think in some ways what we haven't done is equip people with the tools for the critical thinking that they have to bring to this themselves. we have got such a different environment but we're teaching people for a time long gone. we're teaching people in schools
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and in work environment and elsewhere four times that have disappeared now and we have a completely different environment and we need to catch up. do you think, i am particularly mindful of my children's generation, late teens, early 20s, who are the new adults, and who have grown up in a world where social media defines so much of how they receive information and, friendly, how they think, giving the time has come to recognise that the responsibility for, fact checking, second sourcing, all information lies notjust with the platforms — the so—called publishers of information, but with the consumers of information. we'll have to be much more
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self—aware, better educated where out information comes from, and second—guessing how reliable it might be. that is exactly it. whatever we do, whatever tools to come up with, whatever regulation we do, there is always going to be a space where our skills have to be better. because you cannot protect people from this entirely. but you can do better than the social media platforms have done thus far. yes, absolutely. they looking at building more of that it would. the point about fact checking is that it is very retrospective. and the fact checking community, moving on to second generation and third—generation fact checking, which is much more about building it into the system. the problem with fact checking after the fact is that it is already gone. people already have that in mind. it is incredibly difficult to claw it back. the idea to get him first, stop it before it happens and get in first.
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the real, real challenge with that is we are onlyjust seeing the start of how people can start to fake information. as soon as people start to be able to fake really reliable looking videos of people saying things, world leaders saying things that they didn't actually say, which we are very close to... i have seen some of those. i have seen barack 0bama, for example, in virtual reality form, appearing to make a speech, saying thing that the real barack 0bama would not say in a million years. it looked entirely real. this profoundly dangerous. that will be on an app soon. there are some very clunky versions now. there are high—end versions that people can do. the way things are moving that will get there very fast. let me shift this a little bit. you are getting into areas of trust. we have induced that cliched phrase about fake news very much.
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there are so much talk of fake news and there is a whole question of trust these days, do you think that people, on the whole, according to your surveys of a0 or more countries, invest less trust today in so—called experts, whether they be scientists, academics, leading thinkers, is trust being eroded in that way? not straightforwardly. not in the way you will see in these very simple narratives about a crisis of trust. i've been doing this double work about people's opinions for 25 years. i have done more sessions on the new crisis of trust than anything else over that period. we always think trust is in crisis, partly because we have this rosy retrospective thing. we have politicians. i will get to brexit in a moment. it's a very germain, specific example. famously during the brexit campaign in the uk, one of the leading exit campaigners, michael gove, said this, he said, "people in this
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country have simply had enough of experts". our data says that trust in scientists, trust in professors, trust in civil servants has gone up hugely since 1983. we have been tracking trust to tell the truth is 1983 in uk and trust levels for all those professions have gone up. media, journalists, the state is absolutely static, very, very low, but static, the same for politicians. the idea that trust is being destroyed is, in some ways, abdicating responsibility. it's not about trust and the sense that people are giving you something. this is about leadership and showing leadership. so then let's get to real—time politics. while you have been writing this book, perhaps the most dominant political trend notjust in the uk, the united states, but throughout europe and in many parts of the democratic world, has been the rise of a nationalist, populist movement. you could manifest it in trump, or in brexit, or in viktor 0rban, or a whole host of other
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phenomena across the world. does this in your view, and with your research, fit with the notion that emotion is becoming more and more important in politics, and fact—based rationality, if i can put it that way, is becoming less important? i think yes, to a large degree, because of the changing context, the changing information context, about how you can get messages to people. there are big caveats on that in the sense of that rosy retrospection point where we think everything was rational, deferential, and trusting in the pastjust wasn't the case. we have had fake news examples going back millennia, for centuries at least. i am just intrigued by this balance where, in a sense, you are suggesting that right now we're in a phase where emotion
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is trumping evidence and fact in political debate, whether you see that as something very much contemporary, happening now? what i think is the contemporary theme within that is less populism, more polarisation. more the sense that people do get more embedded in their own camps within this, and there has been great work showing this in the us, the extent to which democrats and republican supporters, the overlap in their opinions is just moving further and further apart. there's fewer and fewer elements of overlap, and that is partly the result of this individualised realities, and how actually, the internet, maybe surveillances its business model, but confirmation bias is the currency that it uses for that, just showing us what we want. and that is the issue. yes. do you think there is a groundswell of anger with establishments, and do you struggle to explain that in rational terms?
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because if one looks at, for example, economic growth, the 2008 crash was a fundamental problem, but the trajectory of growth over the last... well, the generation that is currently sort of running countries and in power, during that generation, growth has by and large continued. poverty has been reduced. you look at the work of people like steven pinker and hans rausing, and in most countries things are getting better and not worse. and yet this anger, particularly at establishments and elites, is at play, and it is hard to understand. yes, and it comes through in every country we look at, more or less. everyone thinks the murder rate has increased in their country, the majority thinks it has
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increased or stayed the same, but when you look across the countries that we looked, the murder rate is actually down 29% since 2000. the same with deaths from terrorism. this is notjust big issues that people can't get their heads around, like global poverty, which some have looked at brilliantly. is this things within your country that people get wrong. and it's always with that negative bias that things are getting worse. it is within that trait, and it's partly because we edit out the bad from the past. 0ur brains can't help it. we forget the bad things that happened to us in the past, and it's almost like a protection system. it actually helps our mental health in some ways. you forget how bad it was. and that makes you think that the current in the future is worse than it actually is. i want to talk a little bit about brexit. it is a hugely emotive subject in the uk. but i am very struck by something a psychologist, daniel kahneman said before the vote, and it was clearly a very close vote, but he said irritation and anger, ie emotion and feeling, may well lead to brexit. and that was a prediction.
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and when one looks at what has happened since, is that the way you see it? that brexit was driven by those feelings? yes, absolutely, so that was incredibly prescient by him, two weeks before the referendum. he was over here and he said... that is what he sensed from people, is just that irritation and anger. but from people like him, and i dare say... well, i will ask you, were you a remainer? yes. it seems to me there is a condescension in that notion, that the 52% who voted for brexit were driven in some way by irrational feelings. it is that really is what you are saying. no, not irrational — emotional. it's not at all the same thing. the idea... but because the whole situation, conversation we have had has been premised on this notion that people's feelings are often based on false perception, it is a very easyjump to go
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from your analysis that people voted for brexit on these feelings to assume, as you have said through so much of this interview, that those feelings are based on misperceptions. misperceptions of reality, but not what is important to people. it is the cultural aspects of brexit, which are just as important as the economic aspects of brexit, the sense that the country is changing too fast for people to be comfortable with. whether that... how that relates to the actual reality of immigration doesn't matter. it doesn't make it an invalid feeling, that actually things are changing too fast for me, and actually i would prefer to have less immigration, even if i am wrong about the level of immigration that there currently is. so no, it doesn't at all condescend to those types ofjudgements by people. the cultural factors are really important. well, to continue with the brexit
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thought just for a moment longer, because you wrote about it quite extensively, you suggest that since the referendum, the way people have staked out their positions, either remain or brexit, has become almost tribal in its focus on identity. and again, sort of leaving fact based debate behind and becoming very much about identity politics. and if that is true, then all of this talk about... which comes by and large from remainers, talk about of a people's vote, a second referendum after the government finally nails down some sort of deal that it can take to the british people, put it back to the british people for a final vote, the idea that will produce any sort of resolution is surely going to be nonsensical. because the tribes, the identity politics, is far beyond that sort of resolution. yes, absolutely, but it is not... i would agree with that, but it is also, and i would definitely agree the cultural factors are so important to people in this. but it is also about the future, as well. and the trouble is, there are no facts about the future in these types ofjudgements.
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you cannot say that you are right or wrong about what's going to happen as a result of this. so it is notjust about these camps that are completely not talking to each other, and never going to move. we have already seen some elements of movements within them, and people are not entirely set in one identity. and in fact, what we tried to cover in the book is actually, if you are looking for a time when people were set in their political identities, it was much in the past, where when we used to ask are you a supporter of one particular political party? doesn't matter which one it is, but do you feel like you are a supporter of that one party? used to get 70%, 80% of people agreeing with that, in the 19405, 19505, 19605. and now it is down to 20% among millennials, and the generation coming through since 1980. if anything we're in a more fluid party political context, and that is where you will get party political movements coming up, as in italy, as in france, as in lots of countries. is this a dangerous time
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for democracy, given this disconnect you see between reality and perceptions of reality? yes, yes. it is definitely a dangerous time. and we need to think differently about how we do democracy with people. and this is not at all about condescension, or that people are not taking any account of the facts or that people cannot cope with the facts. but democracy does depend on a well—informed public. if the public is not well informed, we are all in big trouble. but they can be informed, to some degree. so the use of deliberative democracy, the greater use of deliberative democracy, where people or a selection of people are taken through these arguments, the potential for that for the future of democracy is very high. notjust because we know much more about how people think and the biases that people have,
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but because of the very technology that is causing the problem in the first place. people are not unwilling to look at information and to consider their views. they will not flip their world view, but on particular issues, we have done lots and lots of studies where you take people through really quite technical things, or quite identity based things, and they will listen and they will adapt. so in a word, you don't fear for democracy? i think i do fearfor democracy, but i think there's things we can do. bobby duffy, we have the end there, but thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you. thank you very much indeed. well, tuesday's not looking too bad across the uk.
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might start a little cloudy, murky, drizzly, that sort of thing. but eventually, later in the morning and into the afternoon, that grey layer of cloud will break up and we will see some sunshine. now, on the satellite image, the real rain—bearing cloud is away to the north—west of us — in fact, between the uk and iceland. we're to the south, and within this area here, this a gap. we've got muggy, humid air from the southern climes, from the azores, so that's why it feels so warm outside. in fact, very early on tuesday morning, temperatures in the south will be around about 17 degrees celsius, 16, 15—16 throughout yorkshire, even in newcastle there around 1a celsius, so a relatively warm start to the day. and this is that humid air. if you squint you can see those arrows there, all the way from the south—west here, streaming towards the uk. but when we see this weather
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pattern, we often get a lot of cloud that shrouds the coastlines. we get a bit of mist and murk, and even drizzle in places, as well. the real weather front‘s away to the north of us here, the north—west, but we're in that sort of murky area. however, later on in the morning the clouds all break up a little bit, and we'll get some sunshine. so it's into the second half of the day on tuesday, that's when we are going to get the best of the weather. really very warm indeed, hot even in the south—east, 26, 2a expected in merseyside, and into the 205 as far north as scotland. there is a change on the way. those weather fronts will reach us, and we're expecting rain to fall in northern ireland and scotland by the time we get to wednesday. so here's wednesday's weather forecast. you can see it's raining in belfast, in glasgow, edinburgh, it's approaching the lake district, just about merseyside there, northern wales too. but to the south of that, we're still in that very warm air, very humid as well, so temperatures could even shoot up to the high 205. it will feel very warm in east anglia and the south—east,
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temperatures 26 or 27 degrees, and then in scotland and northern ireland we've got that fresher air coming from the atlantic, around 17 celsius, so a bit of a 10—degree difference. and the reason for that is because cold fronts will be sweeping across the uk, and multiple cold fronts, that means spells of rain on the way too. and behind it you can see that fresher air coming all the way from iceland, there's iceland there, that cooler air invading the uk by the time we get to thursday, and right across the country by friday. and you can see the temperatures dropping. in london, 26 on tuesday, by friday it's 19 in london, and by friday it's only 1a degrees in belfast. bye— bye. this is the briefing. i'm sally bundock. our top stories: calls for a national strike in venezuela, as hardship and hyperinflation force thousands to flee the country. the aid operation accelerates in the indian state of kerala where more than a million people are living in relief camps. and fan frenzy in australia, as the world's fastest man
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